Source: Philadelphia Medical Journal
Source type: journal
Document type: editorial
Document title: “The Assassin”
Date of publication: 21 September 1901
Volume number: 8
Issue number: 12
|“The Assassin.” Philadelphia Medical Journal 21 Sept. 1901 v8n12: p. 463.|
|McKinley assassination (personal response).|
The world once more stands aghast
at the crime of an unrestrained Nihilist. The American people—impotent in their
benevolence, tolerant to the last degree of any and every extreme social and
political heresy that airs itself under the aegis of free speech—stand at the
bier of one of their best beloved Chief Magistrates, and tacitly confess that
they see no remedy under the constitution and the laws. The situation, shorn
of its elements of direst tragedy, would be grim in its suggestion merely of
what is helpless and maladroit.
To the mind of the sociologist—of the scientist who studies the pathology of the body politic, just as the physician studies that of the body physical—the situation does not present itself as such a paradox. If there is any standing principle in pathology it is that a disease process should be rooted out. This whole cankerous process of nihilism and anarchy is a disease—social and political infection.
Let no one misapprehend the real elements of this problem. We do not intend for a moment to raise in these columns the threshed out questions of insanity and responsibility. Fortunately and indubitably these questions ought not to be raised in this case. But there may be more than one kind of pathological process in the state. Ignorance, superstition, crime, class hatred, insanity and degeneracy—these are not interchangeable terms. However closely they may dovetail with one another (and that they are mutually reinforceful is not to be denied) they are nevertheless distinct and individual. They must be studied apart as well as together. They must be analyzed and dissected, and the morbid state of each must be differentiated. The modern school, headed by Lombroso, which confuses criminality and insanity, has gone too far. Ignorance is more potent than either of these for harm to the State.
So long as a civilized state commits itself to the theory that any harebrained doctrines are harmless (and therefore permissble [sic]) so long as they are merely spoken, just so long will such a state be subject to the rude surprises that come when such doctrines are bodied forth in deeds. To such a rude surprise have we come now in this country, as we sit in our supreme sorrow and our profound humiliation. This assassination is the foul discharge of a local gangrene in the political body, and the moral, drawn from medical science, is obvious.